This trip to Mexico was a dream, and I had the best time. The last time I was in Mexico was for my best friend’s brother’s wedding, which was a little over six years ago. We’d been planning this trip to Mexico for several months (to coincide with my boyfriend’s sabbatical) and it was even better than I’d hoped it would be. I’d never been to the Riviera Maya area before and I really enjoyed seeing another part of Mexico.
We moved around quite a bit, but I felt like we were able to see a lot during our trip (although there’s still so much more to see!). I feel like we spent a decent amount of time in each city that we went to, and I would 100% go back to all of these places again. Here are the places we visited on our 13-day trip.
We had a little bit of a rough start in Cancun. When we arrived at the airport, we had to wait a while for transportation and it wasn’t really organized. Then when we got to the hotel, there was some confusion with our reservation and we couldn’t check in for a while. By that time we were pretty hungry, but all that was available was the hotel buffet that was kind of sad looking. Definitely worse things have happened, but it made for a rocky start to the trip.
However, we woke up the next morning, and it was a brand new day. We saw the view from our room for the first time and it was glorious. I find it so so lovely to wake up and hear the ocean in the morning. That day we spent the morning at the beach, then we took the bus into town to check out Mercado 28. We had a really good lunch there at a place called El Cejas that had margaritas the size of my head and fun live music. After wandering around the market for a while, we picked up some snacks and some bubbly and headed back to our hotel to have a chill NYE.
I had such a great time! I didn’t have to get dressed up, which was awesome (although dressing up can be very fun, getting to stay in your pjs is also very good). I got to spend it with my lovely boyfriend (it was the first time we’ve been in the same location on NYE). And we had a chill, stress-free night! From our room, we could hear live music from our hotel and other ones on the strip, and we caught a great fireworks show from our balcony. It was one of the best NYEs I’ve had in recent memory!
Our next stop was Holbox, where we spent three nights. We arranged for ground transportation through our Holbox hotel and all together, the journey from the Hotel Zone in Cancun to Holbox took around 2.5 hours.
After our hotel experience in Cancun, I was a little nervous about checking into our hotel in Holbox, but I had nothing to worry about. Our Holbox Hotel, Alcobas del Mar, was so welcoming and a beautiful place to stay. I loved the zen vibes and immediately felt calmer when we got there. I feel like Holbox was the portion of the trip where I really started to relax.
We had so much good food in Holbox. Coquitos was a great beach club not too far from our hotel and they had some of the best guacamole I’ve ever taste. We loved Mandarina so much that we went there four times during our three-night stay (twice for lunch, once for dinner, and once for drinks). Both the food and drinks were so good, which is why we kept going back! We also went to Luuma, which had really delicious, interesting small plates that were great for sharing, and Básico, which was also great. For both of those restaurants, I’d recommend making a reservation ahead of time, or at least the night before, as it seems like they tend to fill up really quickly. We also had breakfast a couple mornings at Sushi de Holbox. I think it’s a sushi restaurant later in the day, but I can’t speak to their sushi quality as we only had breakfast there!
While we were in Holbox, we did a three-island boat tour, where they take you around to three of the nearby islands. It was a fun and affordable activity (I think it was about $20 a person) and a good way to break up the day. The rest of the time, we were basically either eating or chilling on the beach. We did try to go for a bioluminescence tour one night, but we got eaten alive by mosquitos and didn’t see much luminescence, so I’m not sure I would recommend it. I think we were out of season though and our guide said something about the moon being too high for proper visibility, so maybe it would be a lot better on a different night in season!
Our stay in Isla Mujeres was short and sweet! It was pouring rain the first day we got there, so we didn’t do much that day. The second day, we rented a golf cart and drove all the way around the island, which was soooo much fun. We stopped off at a reggae bar called The Joint and then also visited Punta Sur, which had beautiful views off the southern point of the island. We spent the rest of the day on the beach, where the DJ was playing some tunes. I had a nap on the beach, the music was such a vibe, and overall it was a very lovely day.
Playa del Carmen
We decided to make Playa del Carmen our base for the the last 5 nights of the trip and it was great to settle in one place for a little bit. Even though I knew it was a big tourist destination, I wasn’t expecting it to be so built up for whatever reason. There were so many Starbucks and Haagen Dazs and spotted a McDonald’s too. Our hotel, Quinta Margarita, was so great and the people working there were so friendly. I would highly recommend it! There were some great food spots around our hotel as well, including Chez Celine, a French spot that had delicious pastries and just generally had tasty food, and Axiote, which was a great Mexican restaurant.
While we were staying in Playa del Carmen, we did two amazing tours with YucaTreks. The first one included a trip to the Tulum Ruins, a visit to grand Cenote, and lunch on a beach in Tulum. The Tulum Ruins were so impressive to me. We walked through a little stone tunnel, which opened into the ruins, and it was actually pretty breathtaking. I loved wandering around there and learning about the history of the area. Also, consider me a cenote fan after this trip! I was a little scared when I first got in, but then I started to feel more comfortable after a little while. It was so cool to see all the fish swimming so close to us. And after the cenote, we had an amazing lunch on the beach in Tulum. The food was really simple and the location was stunning. I think that little spot is my new happy place.
The second tour we did involved a trip to Chichen Itza, two cenotes, lunch at a hacienda, and a stop in Valladolid. Chichen Itza was really cool and I’m glad we got there super early, before it got super crowded. One of the cenotes we visited this day was underground, and it felt very adventurous to descend into it, where we saw lots of stalacites and roots dangling from the ceiling. We had a tasty buffet lunch at the hacienda, saw another cenote with a beautiful waterfall, and then stopped in Valladolid for a bit of shopping before we headed home.
Our last day trip was a ferry ride over to Cozumel. I’m not sure why, but the boat ride across was kind of terrifying for me. The water was really choppy and it felt like been on a plane with really bad turbulence. Once we got there though, I quickly recovered from that scary boat ride and we booked a trip to go snorkeling. The snorkeling was amazing. The water was so crystal clear blue in some spots and we had schools of fish swimming right by us. I was struggling with my mask and panicking a little bit at first (I’m not the strongest swimmer, so sometimes I get scared in the water), but once I got more comfortable I really enjoyed the experience. I was buzzing from getting to see so much marine life up close and personal (we even saw a sting ray). Definitely a memorable experience!
When we weren’t day tripping to various places, we spent some time on the beach and walked around Quinta Avenida. Playa del Carmen did feel very touristy, but I feel like there is so much to do in and around that area and I would definitely go back!
Ahhhh, this trip was such a good one and I’m dying to go back! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures in Mexico and if you’re planning a trip to the Riviera Maya area soon, I hope some of these recommendations are helpful!